Sunday Snippet: Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

“I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail. You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

Those words were uttered by the late great (the greatest!) Muhammad Ali after he defeated George Foreman with an eighth round knockout in 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali may have been an incredibly polarizing figure, with his outspoken personality and his bold political stances, but you could never doubt his confidence. He was charismatic to a fault. And he passed away this past Friday. He was 74.

Muhammad Ali was before my time. His reign as the heavyweight champion of the world, a title he held three times in his career, took place before I was born. I only came to know him from his post-boxing career and from the short clips I’d see on TV, both of his matches and his interviews. He was the stuff legends are made of, with a larger-than-life personality.

Did he have an ego? Absolutely. Did his performance in the ring live up to his boastful claims? Absolutely. In order to achieve great things, you must first believe that you have this capability in you. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Ali certainly believed in his greatness.

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942 (and raised as a Baptist), “The Greatest” would go on to join the Nation of Islam (sometimes called “the Black Muslims”) shortly after defeating Sonny Liston in 1964. He had already affiliated himself with prominent figures in that movement, including Malcolm X, for several years. It was also at that time that he changed his name, stating that Cassius Clay was his “slave name.”

While Muhammad Ali would continue to practice the Islamic faith for the remainder of his life, he converted from the more radical Nation of Islam to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1975. He would then go on to embrace Universal Sufism in 2005 with an increased focus on charity work and “making people happy.”

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Dare to dream and dare to dream big. If the journey of Muhammad Ali has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is impossible if you put in the work and truly believe you are the greatest. Float on, dear butterfly. Float on.

Image credit: benyupp (Flickr)